For her solo show “Colombianización,” queer performer Nadia Granados transformed Galería Santa Fe into an immersive audiovisual environment. Through multimedia installations and sculptures, the exhibition delved into the mythology of the Colombian drug trade, strategies in national branding, narco-masculinity, the murder of activists, and the exploitation of natural resources. Interpreting stock characters such as the businessman, the soldier, the entrepreneur, and the hit man through drag-king performance, the artist confronted macho power and pointed out how the production of male identity underlies the neoliberal rhetoric of domination and consumerism.
“Colombianización” was a site-specific project under the umbrella of the eleventh edition of the Premio Luis Caballero, the prestigious national art prize created in 1996 to honor midcareer artists. Staged during Colombia’s 2022 presidential campaign, the show employed a corrosive sense of humor and gore aesthetics to take a close look at the country’s recent history. In four video installations at the entrance to the space, we saw and heard Granados performing catchy music combining tropical rhythms and reggaeton—a key element of the whole experience. Appropriating the visual language of video clips and ad campaigns, she highlighted themes of precarity, inequality, privatization, and government responsibility for human rights violations.
One of the strongest pieces in the show was the video Brandaland 1, 2021, which mocks the 2005 nation-branding campaign “Colombia Is Passion,” designed to change the negative perception of the country and attract tourism and foreign investment. Through uncompromising lyrics (“State terrorism manipulates opinion / In the streets silencing with repression / Ideological propaganda for our satisfaction / The images on television are saving us / Destroy memory, give me your show / Moving the asses, Colombia is passion”) and sexually explicit dancing, Granados counters nationalist pride to stress the way in which state violence is disguised in the nation’s gun and soccer fanaticism and how the capitalist mantra that more jobs equal prosperity is propagated within the mass media. In Gente de bien (Good People), 2022, her anarcho-cabaret alter ego La Fulminante accompanies a caravan of Ku Klux Klansmen and members of the business elite successively holding the national flag. Neoliberalism is always presented in her work as an alliance among forces of finance, white supremacy, and neofascism. In Capitalismo gore (Gore Capitalism), 2022, titled after a book by Tijuana, Mexico, activist intellectual Sayak Valencia, Granados presents death as an everyday commodity in Colombia. The project insists on presenting the idea of Colombia as a media spectacle where white bodies are celebrated, while brown, Black, indigenous, and queer ones are exoticized, consumed, and exterminated. The installation Mapa (Map), 2022, comprises eight televisions on the floor reproducing media images and phrases from presidential campaigns and a floating silhouette of a map of Colombia used as a projection screen for short clips of women dancing dressed in clothing inspired by Colombia’s flag holding guns among smiley symbols and dollar signs. The artist uses literal symbols to invite us to see the country as a mass grave, fertile ground for capitalist profit-making, and a simulacrum of democracy.
Granados is not afraid to point out those responsible for the ongoing cycle of violence against peasant and Indigenous communities, exposing in her videos the faces of businessmen and politicians, among them right-wing former president Álvaro Uribe. Her sculptures are also quite explicit in their own way: In Motosierra (Chain Saw), 2022, a chain saw is painted with the colors of the national flag and the term COLOMBIANIZACIÓN, reminding us how nation-building and modernity are linked to ethnic cleansing, but also evoking the high numbers of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of the past decades. The recently established Special Jurisdiction for Peace also documented such actions in the findings from the first phase of its investigation, centered on the years 2002–2008 (during the Uribe presidency). Granados’s work feels like a punch to the gut, confronting the neoliberal paradigm and its sophisticated methods for influencing social structures of desire. “Colombianización” was a bold, combative, and cathartic dramatization of political power.